Why is the environment important for decision making? Local reservoir model for choice-based learning

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 4;13(10):e0205161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205161. eCollection 2018.


Decision making based on behavioral and neural observations of living systems has been extensively studied in brain science, psychology, neuroeconomics, and other disciplines. Decision-making mechanisms have also been experimentally implemented in physical processes, such as single photons and chaotic lasers. The findings of these experiments suggest that there is a certain common basis in describing decision making, regardless of its physical realizations. In this study, we propose a local reservoir model to account for choice-based learning (CBL). CBL describes decision consistency as a phenomenon where making a certain decision increases the possibility of making that same decision again later. This phenomenon has been intensively investigated in neuroscience, psychology, and other related fields. Our proposed model is inspired by the viewpoint that a decision is affected by its local environment, which is referred to as a local reservoir. If the size of the local reservoir is large enough, consecutive decision making will not be affected by previous decisions, thus showing lower degrees of decision consistency in CBL. In contrast, if the size of the local reservoir decreases, a biased distribution occurs within it, which leads to higher degrees of decision consistency in CBL. In this study, an analytical approach for characterizing local reservoirs is presented, as well as several numerical demonstrations. Furthermore, a physical architecture for CBL based on single photons is discussed, and the effects of local reservoirs are numerically demonstrated. Decision consistency in human decision-making tasks and in recruiting empirical data is evaluated based on the local reservoir. This foundation based on a local reservoir offers further insights into the understanding and design of decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior* / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Learning* / physiology
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Photons
  • Probability

Grants and funding

This work was supported in part by the CREST program from Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Core-to-Core Program A. Advanced Research Networks and the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) (JP17H01277) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. E.Y. were supported by MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Grant-in-Aid for the “Building of Consortia for the Development of Human Resources in Science and Technology”.